Corey Fienhage was a 3rd round draft pick (#81 overall) of the Buffalo Sabres in the 2008 entry draft. Fienhage is a defenseman for the North Dakota Fighting Sioux on the WCHA. He played in only nine games as a freshman but this season, his sophomore campaign, he has played in 21 games and has become a regular on the Sioux blueline.
Fienhage fits the profile of a fan favorite in Buffalo. He is a big body defenseman (6'3" - 215 lbs.) that isn't afraid to play a physical style. I had an opportunity to catch up with him this week and talk about his season and his future in the Sabres organization.
Let's begin by talking about this season at North Dakota. It has been kind of an up and down season for the team. Why do you think the team as been so inconsistent?
We are playing really well now. We lost our captain early on in the season and it was tough to get going without him. At first goals were tough to come by but now we are scoring goals and it's all about the effort now.
Tell me about playing in the WCHA. It seems there is never an easy weekend in that conference. Does it ever get overwhelming knowing that every weekend you are playing against a top 10 team?
The mentality is that we are going to win every game. It is a tough conference but that is what is exciting about it.
Do you think playing a difficult regular season schedule helps the team in the long run and when you play out of conference games?
The East Coast teams are pretty good as well. Playing in the WCHA is a lot of fun but there are good teams in the east as well.
You chose to take the NCAA route by attending North Dakota. Was NCAA hockey always your first choice or did you consider playing Canadian major junior hockey?
That was always what I wanted to do. I first started playing hockey in Alabama because I lived in Tennessee. Since I moved to Minnesota and started playing high school hockey, I wanted to play NCAA and I wanted to play in the WCHA.
After your final high school hockey season concluded you finished out the season by playing in the USHL. How do you think that helped your development?
The speed mostly. High school hockey in Minnesota is pretty good but the speed in the USHL was overwhelming at first. It helped me when I came in here (North Dakota) to have a few games under my belt. Of course the speed increased again when I got here and it took some time to get adjusted but the USHL really helped me to realize the speed and how hard players play.
It's a huge difference between playing high school hockey and playing college hockey at North Dakota. In high school it was easier for you to add offense to your game but in your second season at North Dakota you are still looking for your first goal. Does that every weigh on your mind while your playing?
Obviously I would like to get my first goal, that would be a fun one but I look forward to improving the defensive side of my game. I would like to add more offense but I take pride in the defensive side of my game. I try to focus on the easy things like getting the puck out of the zone and make the first pass but it would be nice to get my first goal.
You're now in your second season at North Dakota. In looking back, what do you think is the biggest improvement in your game from when you stepped on campus until today?
I really think confidence. When I was a freshman, I was a little overwhelmed and not as talkative as I should be. This year I have stepped in their and I'm making the aggressive play and being able to see the first pass a lot clearer, the game is starting to slow down for me.
Sabres fans love a player with size and at 6'3" and 215 pounds, you would qualify as a big body. Ho would you describe yourself as a player to Sabres fans that might not know a lot about you?
I'm a simple player. I try not to do too much with the puck, a defensive player and I take pride in not getting scored on. I try to be big in front of the net, moving people, using the body when necessary and hitting people in the corners. I really just try to get the puck out of the zone and move it up to the forwards.
You have had an opportunity to attend the Sabres summer prospect camp. What do you take away from that experience as a player?
It was a great experience getting to meet the coaches and the strength coaches and making a relationship with them. It's great getting to meet the guys and playing with Tyler Myers. The coaches help you out with footwork and explain the things they do in their system. I also got to see Justin Jokinen from Mankato, he is also a Sabres draft pick and I know him from Minnesota so it's always good to catch up with him.
What type of interaction do you have with the Sabres organization throughout your season?
We talk occasionally on the phone, they just check up on me and tell me what I need to work on still.
I seen you were also honorable mention all-conference as a football player in high school, what position did you play in football?
I was a strong safety and our system was a 3-4 so I was basically an outside linebacker. I also played defensive end at the end of the season and that was fun getting off the edge and blindsiding quarterbacks. I just liked getting out there and hitting people and that is pretty much why I played.
Hockey players are famous for being superstitious. Do you have any superstitions that are a must on game day?
Not really. I try to put my equipment on starting with my right leg starting with my right sock and my right shin pad etc. It's just something I started doing this year but not really many superstitions.
Nicknames are another staple of hockey players, do you have any nicknames we should know about?
Not really. They just call me Corey here and Finnags, nothing too big as far as nicknames.
Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions and good luck with your season.
No problem, anytime.
I want to offer tanks to Corey for taking the time to talk to us, Jaysen Hajdu the Director of Athletic Media Relations at North Dakota and also a special thanks to Derek Zona of The Copper & Blue for helping to set up this interview.